First Look: Blue Mountain Barrel House Dark Hollow
Ohio continues to be a favorite state for craft beer expansion as it was recently chosen by Blue Mountain Barrel House/Blue Mountain Brewery out of Arrington, Virginia along with Clown Shoes, New Belgium, and Deschutes. While you may not be familiar with Blue Mountain you should introduce yourself as quickly as possible. Since 2010, they’ve brought home five medals from the Great American Beer Festival. That’s pretty impressive for a young brewery. There is also some serious pedigree behind their beers. The brewmaster, Taylor Smack, trained at Goose Island in Chicago which is generally regarded as having created the barrel aged beer movement.
They were kind enough to send me an awesome care package with a sampling of their beers for me to try. I’ll be reviewing all of these beers and at the end giving some away to a lucky reader – so stay tuned!
For my first selection, I decided to go with the biggest and boldest of the bunch. A daunting cage-and-corked imperial stout aged in oak bourbon barrels called Dark Hollow. I’m not sure which barrel this came out of (and I’m not enough of a bourbon connoisseur to detect) but they use barrels from Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and Elijah Craig. This is a straight-shooting bottle conditioned 10% ABV beer. While the style is generally ripe for aging they bottle (and cork) suggest drinking it by July 2014. Here are my thoughts…
Dark Hollow | ABV: 10% | IBU: 70
It pours a thick, pitch black syrup with a significant amount of carbonation for the style. This doesn’t scare me as I’m generally a fan of carbonation. More remarkable is how long the a head lasts given its high ABV. You get a fluffy tan head 2-3 fingers tall that then lines the edge of the glass and floats on the surface. The first pour yielded a head that lasted 15-20 minutes as I slowly sipped my way through the snifter.
The aroma shifted on me as it breathed. First, I smelled sweet, dark fruits with a heavy fresh bourbon and oak (lots of oak). This dark fruit smell faded and I got more vanilla in the nose.
The first sip brought lots of carbonation tingle. It helps move the medium-heavy body around your mouth to create a creamy texture. You don’t get much in the way roast flavor but lots of vanilla and oak. It rolls down the back of your throat to give a noticeable alcohol burn as the bourbon and oak become even more pronounced. This is a bourbon lover’s beer. While I mention the alcohol flavor it doesn’t have an upfront blast of a 10% ABV beer. It’s actually pretty smooth overall and an easy sipper. This makes a perfect cold weather sipper on a quiet evening. Just pour a snifter and let it breathe all night long. Also, I would recommend sharing this with at least one other person as it will take you quite a long time.
My only regret was drinking it too cold at first. I pulled it out of the fridge and gave it 5-10 minutes to warm up but this wasn’t enough. This does much better at 55-60 °F to unlock a velvety texture and swirling vanilla and oak flavors.
I strongly recommend this beer if you are a fan of MadTree Barrel Aged Axis Mundi, Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout, Bell’s Black Note, and others like that.
FYI – this scored an 87 on Beer Advocate and a 98 on RateBeer.